Construction singled out in US opioid epidemic warning

The US construction industry has been singled out as especially at risk from the opioid epidemic sweeping America after data showed its workers to be more susceptible to drug dependence than all other workers but those in the food services industry.

The warning builds on estimates previously cited by insurance group CNA putting illicit drug use among construction workers at 15.1%.

It was issued by the property news site Bisnow, which concluded that the industry is not facing up to the problem after it contacted 17 construction companies and workers at 27 construction sites nationwide, and found only two executives willing to speak off the record.

President Donald Trump declared the opioid epidemic a national public health emergency last week (26 October).

Among the more than 64,000 drug overdose deaths estimated in 2016, the sharpest increase occurred among deaths related to fentanyl and fentanyl analogs (synthetic opioids) with over 20,000 overdose deaths.

As Construction Dive reports, insurance claims data from CNA found that the construction industry’s total prescription opioid spend from 2009 to 2013 was 5-10% higher than any other industry in the study.

CNA also found that injuries leading to opioid abuse drive up both business costs and the likelihood of accidents, leading to more potential opioid addiction.

Lost time, job turnover and retraining, and healthcare are among the biggest costs substance abuse can incur, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health found.

The industry’s tendency toward abuse can perhaps be attributed to its male-dominated workforce – men are twice as likely to use drugs in an illicit manner than are women – and the physical toughness of the work, which can lead to greater use of prescription pain medication.

According to data, a construction company with 100 workers can expect to lose $40,839 each year in Oklahoma, $43,538 in Massachusetts and $38,140 in Texas – three of the states with the highest frequency of opioid abuse, reported Construction Dive.

Photograph by Stuart Ritchie/Dreamstime

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